The Malcolm Hardee Awards presentation + Arthur Smith’s tour of Edinburgh

(This blog originally appeared in What’s On Stage)

The Malcolm Hardee Awards were presented late night on Friday and it was, at last, my first chance to meet the very charming, very very amiable Bo Burnham, who had had PR trouble earlier in the week.

In honour of the late Malcolm Hardee, everything was thrown together after the Award winners were decided at Friday lunchtime. Around 6.00pm, it was decided doyenne of Scotsman critics (and Malcolm Hardee judge) Kate Copstick would present the awards with comic Simon Munnery… and Nik Coppin, within whose Shaggers show it was happening fitted everything smoothly in with Arthur Smith coming along as a last-minute top of the bill.

Perhaps the most interesting act of the evening to me was Diane Spencer, who appeared at first to be a seemingly newish stand-up. She must be underestimated by many. Very very likeable. And very professional. I have seldom seen anyone play a post-performance room that smoothly or that effectively. I think she will go far.

After the show and a break to e-mail out press releases, at 2.00am I joined a growing and expectant crowd outside Edinburgh Castle for Arthur Smith’s legendary  tour of the Royal Mile.

This year, it involved a philosophical dissertation on the meaning of life and the existence or non-existence of God and… as we wandered down half The Mile… a mermaid sitting on a stone wall, a man in a white suit singing on a mini roundabout to the confusion of taxi drivers, the three Segue Sisters singing in rickshaws, a very lucky busker, soldiers singing from fourth floor windows, yellow-jacketed local council workers dancing in the street and Simon Munnery donning a German accent but, unlike in previous years, failing to get arrested by the local police.

In among the crowd, there was also a placid man in an orange plastic vest jacket with the words (as I remember them) LEGAL OBSERVER on his back; he took occasional notes. I thought he must be part of the surreal festive frivolity and would become relevant later on but, it seems, he was the real thing. Quite what he was observing, I know not. Perhaps he was trying to gather evidence to grass up Simon Munnery to the Leith Police. Arthur, as always, encouraged the unusual along the way which, this time, involved synchronised rickshaw driving and paying £20 to anyone who would stand on their head in a full-to-the-brim smelly rubbish bin; one young man, of course, took up the challenge and got the money.

Among the crowd were London Evening Standard critic Bruce Dessau turning up on a bike after phoning Arthur to see where he was on the Royal Mile, Steve Bennett editor of comedy industry website Chortle apparently trying to merge anonymously into the stone walls in case an aggrieved comic spotted him,  comedienne Hattie Hayridge wearing a big black coat and hood saying she felt like she’d come as the Scottish Widow and a desolate Comedy Store Player Richard Vranch arriving 45 seconds after the tour ended.

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